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Leyland Motors has a long history dating from 1896, when the Sumner and Spurrier families founded the Lancashire Steam Motor Company in the town of Leyland in North West England. The company's first vehicle was a 1.5-ton-capacity steam powered van. The Lancashire Steam Motor Company was renamed Leyland Motors in 1907 when they took over Coulthards of Preston. They also built a second factory in the neighbouring town of Chorley which still remains today as the headquarters of the LEX leasing and parts company.
In 1920 Leyland Motors produced the Leyland 8 luxury touring car, a development of which was driven by J.G. Parry-Thomas at Brooklands. Parry-Thomas was later killed in attempt on the land speed record when a chain drive broke. At the other extreme, they also produced the Trojan Utility Car in the Kingston on Thames factory from 1922 to 1928.
Three generations of Spurriers controlled Leyland Motors from its foundation until the retirement of Sir Henry Spurrier in 1964. Sir Henry inherited control of Leyland Motors from his father in 1942, and successfully guided its growth during the postwar years. Whilst the Spurrier family were in control the company enjoyed excellent labour relations - reputedly never losing a day's production through industrial action.
World War 2
During the war, Leyland Motors along with most vehicle manufacturers was involved in war production. Leyland built the Cromwell tank at its works from 1943.
After the war, Leyland Motors continued military manufacture with the Centurion tank.
In 1946, AEC and Leyland Motors worked to form the British United Traction Ltd.
In 1955, through an equity agreement, manufacture of commercial vehicles under license from Leyland Motors commenced in Madras, India at the new Ashok factory. The products were branded as Ashok Leyland.
On the other hand, Leyland Motors acquired other companies in the post war years:
- 1951: Albion Motors
- 1955: Scammell Lorries Ltd - military and specialist lorry manufacturer
- 1960: Standard Triumph, cars and some agricultural machinery interests
- 1962: Associated Commercial Vehicles (ACV), which incorporated AEC, Thornycroft, Park Royal Vehicles and Charles H. Roe. Then Leyland Motors was renamed Leyland Motor Corporation
- 1965: Bristol Commercial Vehicles, Eastern Coach Works
- 1967: Rover cars
Donald Stokes took over as head of the company in 1964 and in 1968 it merged with British Motor Holdings (BMH) to form the British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC). BMH brought with it more famous British goods vehicle and bus and coach marques, including Daimler, Guy, BMC, Austin and Morris into the new organization.
British Leyland era
The BLMC group was difficult to manage because of the many companies under its control, often making similar products. This, and other reasons, led to financial difficulties and in December 1974 British Leyland had to receive a guarantee from the British government.
In 1975, after the publication of the Ryder Report, BLMC nationalised as British Leyland (BL) and split into 4 divisions with the bus and truck production becoming the Leyland Truck & Bus division. This division was spilt into Leyland Bus and Leyland Trucks in 1981. In 1986 BL changed its name to Rover Group. The equity stake in Ashok Leyland was controlled by Land Rover Leyland International Holdings, and sold in 1987.
Leyland name post-British Leyland
- 1987 The Leyland Trucks division of Rover Group (formerley BL) merged with DAF Trucks of The Netherlands, and was floated on the Dutch stock exchange as DAF NV. The new company traded as Leyland DAF in the UK, and as DAF elsewhere.
- 1993 DAF NV went into bankruptcy. The UK truck division was bought through a management buy-out and became Leyland Trucks. The van division was also bought through a management buy-out and became LDV Limited. The Spare Parts Operation (Multipart) was also subject to a management buy-out before eventually becoming part of the LEX organisation.
- 1998 Leyland Trucks was acquired by the US truck manufacturer PACCAR. Leyland Trucks now operates as a division of PACCAR from the Leyland Assembly Plant in North West England manufacturing around 14,000 trucks per year of which about a third are sold in the EU.
Historically, Leyland Motors was a major manufacturer of buses used in the United Kingdom and world-wide, being probably most famous for the trend-setting Atlantean rear-engined double decker bus design produced between 1956 and 1986.
See List of Leyland buses for the list of bus products.
- Q-type 4 ton
- SQ2 7 ton
- SWQ2 10 ton six-wheeler
- Octopus 22 ton eight-wheeler
- Leyland 90
- T45 Roadtrain